Lead Story – The New Mr. Speaker . . .

Lead Story – The New Mr. Speaker . . .

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Then-state Rep. Mark Takai, Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson and Rep. Scott Saiki on opening day of the 2013 legislative session. Takai and Saiki were both elected to the state House in 1994. In 2014, Takai ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and won, taking office in January 2015. He died of cancer in July 2016. (Courtesy: Office of Rep. Scott Saiki)
Former Speaker Calvin Say advises Saiki to not get bogged down in details and to “keep his eyes open to the big picture.” (Photo courtesy Calvin Say)

Former Speaker Calvin Say advises Saiki to not get bogged down in details and to “keep his eyes open to the big picture.” (Photo courtesy Calvin Say)

Richard Borreca
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

For the past quarter of a century, only two men have controlled the House of Representatives in Hawai‘i.

Maui Democratic Rep. Joe Souki was Speaker of the House from 1993 until 1999, when he was ousted by Pälolo Democratic Rep. Calvin Say.

Then in 2013, Souki put together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to retake the speakership from Say. That lasted until this past spring when, on the closing day of the legislative session, Souki was again toppled.

When Souki was replaced for a second time, it was remarkably by someone new, Rep. Scott Saiki, a Democrat who represents O‘ahu’s
McCully to Downtown area.

Cover image of 8/4/17 issue, of Rep. Scott Saiki holding a sign "Give Pedestrians a Brake"

Although Saiki, who turned 53 last month, has 23 years of legislative service, he is somewhat of a new face because he spent nearly half of that time on the political outs.

“I started off as a dissident,” Saiki said in an interview.

“Joe was speaker at the time and I was part of the group that didn’t support him. Over half of my time has been spent as a dissident — four years under Joe and eight years under Calvin.”

For much of that time, Saiki, who has a quiet, but firm speaking style, has not been one for political crusades, but he has always been an independent voice.

“Everyone should be a dissident during their legislative career because it gives you a different perspective,” says Saiki.

Asked what he thought of Scott Saiki after he was deposed by the liberal University of Hawai‘i-trained attorney, Souki said: “Right now I don’t think too highly of him.”

“I think Scott is a very competent person; he is very smart,” added the 84-year-old Souki.

While Saiki said his path to becoming just the 10th House leader since statehood was never plotted or planned, he does appreciate that his leadership of a tight group of Democrats was forged long ago.

“We were pretty close and loyal to each other,” he said.

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Rep. Scott Saiki in 1995 — his freshman year as a state representative. “I’ve always thought that you have to vote your conscience. I think if you do that, ultimately, people will respect you for that,” he told the Herald in an April 1995 interview. (Hawai‘i Herald archives)

Rep. Scott Saiki in 1995 — his freshman year as a state representative. “I’ve always thought that you have to vote your conscience. I think if you do that, ultimately, people will respect you for that,” he told the Herald in an April 1995 interview. (Hawai‘i Herald archives)

Rep. Scott Saiki this past May following the announcement that he would replace Maui Rep. Joe Souki as Speaker of the House. (Photo courtesy: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

Rep. Scott Saiki this past May following the announcement that he would replace Maui Rep. Joe Souki as Speaker of the House. (Photo courtesy: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

Rep. Sylvia Luke: “I always felt Scott was somebody who would stand up from a base of values he has.” [He] has grown tremendously as a leader.”

Rep. Sylvia Luke: “I always felt Scott was somebody who would stand up from a base of values he has.” [He] has grown tremendously as a leader.”

“Scottie has been around wanting it for longer than most people remember. The next generation is finally taking over, but they have been slowly doing that for some time. I don’t know how much substance will occur.” — former Gov. John Waihe‘e

“Scottie has been around wanting it for longer than most people remember. The next generation is finally taking over, but they have been slowly doing that for some time. I don’t know how much substance will occur.” — former Gov. John Waihe‘e 

Maui Democratic Rep. Joe Souki, who was Speaker of the House from 1993 to 1999 and again from 2013 to 2017, was not happy being unseated by Rep. Scott Saiki. However, he said that Saiki was “very competent” and “very smart.” (Photo from joesouki.com)

Maui Democratic Rep. Joe Souki, who was Speaker of the House from 1993 to 1999 and again from 2013 to 2017, was not happy being unseated by Rep. Scott Saiki. However, he said that Saiki was “very competent” and “very smart.” (Photo from joesouki.com)

"He [Saiki] unloaded his frustrations about how the House was being run. I said why don’t you guys take power? But, nobody wanted to take power. I think he is going to have to grow in the position. And I think he will.” — former Gov. Ben Cayetano

“He [Saiki] unloaded his frustrations about how the House was being run. I said why don’t you guys take power? But, nobody wanted to take power. I think he is going to have to grow in the position. And I think he will.” — former Gov. Ben Cayetano

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